Thursday, December 6, 2012

Steins;Gate: A lab coat isn't the same as a Tulip Mask, but it'll do

Steins;Gate is probably one of the best anime I've watched in recent years, and fully deserving of the label 'epic', simply for the scale of the plot. This is high praise, coming for me, especially despite the lack of anything on the scale of an intergalactic war or mass extinction; not to mention the subject matter: time travel, a plot engine whose use often makes or breaks a show.

The very concept of time travel is hard to explain, especially when things get complicated. Some titles make the mistake of simply being too boring and repetitive- Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu S2 comes to mind, with it's painful Endless 8 arc (8 virtually identical episodes). Some fail when they try to explain what's going on- which is why explanations in Doraemon tend to show Nobita (the prodigal idiot) feeling that something is wrong, but is unable to say why- with someone telling him not to think about it too much because he's an idiot and wouldn't be able to understand anyway.

Come to think of it, Steins;Gate did try to explain itself. Various temporal concepts, for example: Heidegger's idea that humans are temporal creatures, time divergence, multiple threads of time... though they seemed more like interesting flavour text to me. As for the more important issue: whether or not the chosen plot holds without being broken by paradox- I did try to keep watch, but was swept away by the drama. Nuff' said, I suppose.

Steins;Gate focuses on self-proclaimed mad scientist Hououin Kyouma (Real name: Okabe Rintarou) and his experiments with a microwave capable of sending mail to the past which he helped to create. His science club initially consists of two other members: the childish Shiina Mayuri and chubby hacker Hashida Itaru. Later members include Makise Kurisu, Amane Suzuha, Kiryuu Moeka, and Urushibara Ruka.

Looking at the list of names above you'd be forgiven for thinking that Steins;Gate is just another harem anime pretending to be something intelligent- 2 guys, 4 girls, and a gorgeous trap. Luckily this isn't the case- a romance does develop and blossom, but only for one pair. One heart is broken, one moves on. The other key male isn't even jealous, merely mildly lecherous.

To keep thing simple without letting everything out- Okabe and co. improve their time machine and experimenting with the aforementioned lab members- sending messages to the past in an attempt to influence the present. For the sake of drama the consequence is brutal, cruel, and unfair. Okabe, interestingly, is the only person who is able to jump between time lines without his memory being altered, and as such it's up to him to put everything back into place.

That they did not use the time travel machine for grander schemes such as taking over the world does nothing to detract from Steins;Gate's epicness. How many people would bother? Most of us would use it for personal gain, on simple things like winning the lottery or not sending a particular email. The threat of a dystopian society ruled by SERN (a corruption of CERN, obviously) casts a constant cloud, but is hardly recognised by the most of the cast- especially since they have much more important (and personal) issues to take care of.

Speaking of the cast, most of them initially appeared to be dangerously stereotypical- especially the seemingly vacuous Mayuri and her ridiculous way of announcing her arrival, but somehow they characters just grew on me- with one exception, although that character is forgiven in-show (I'm not as generous). As for pacing and direction- not a moment was wasted, with an excellent balance between lighthearted moments and grimness.

To wrap things up: Steins;Gate comes from the same folks responsible for Chaos;Head (see the odd punctuation?). Chaos;Head made enough of an impression for me at the time for me to review it, though if I recall correctly it did have some glaring flaws- but I enjoyed it at the time. Never mind that I remember nothing about the plot now.

Steins;Gate, however, will probably remain engraved on a quiet patch of my neural network for years to come, along with greats such as Ruroken, Death Note, and Code Geass. Give me a pop quiz on Steins in 2 or 3 years time. Chances are that you won't remember to do so, but if you do- well, you will have the pleasure of proving me right. Pretty good deal, no?


  1. I'm sure I will never submit you to that pop quiz but the name of this series is in my the message has been delivered :)

    1. Chances are no one will ever do so- I guess I can consider that a job well done. :D